Lydia (left), barista and Sarah (right), owner.

Lydia (left), barista and Sarah (right), owner.

Their name is not the only thing that Alyssum café has changed since rebranding at the beginning of the year, adding new items to the menu and an environmentally-friendly conscience.

The owner, Sarah Hargreaves, bought the business last September under its previous incarnation, Mocca.

“Alyssum isn’t an easy name to pronounce but it really reflected everything I wanted to say about the new direction,” Sarah says, “Having a large garden at home, it’s a flower I have a fondness for, and it’s used widely in companion planting for vegetable gardens. As Pukekohe is a huge vegetable growing area, it tied in well as an analogy for the cafe to be a ‘companion’ to the locals’ lives and to do all I can to benefit the community as a whole.”

Since rebranding, Alyssum has kept some classics, but has also been offering a wider variety of food choices which cater for allergies and special diets.

“I made a decision to source as much from New Zealand as possible or to use organic or fair trade when sourcing products that aren’t available here.”

Gluten free food has been a big part of the change, with further focus on this to come. “Coeliacs particularly have a hard time feeling comfortable around food choices and there’s an assumption that gluten free is limiting,” she says, “We see it as a challenge to play with flavours and be a bit more creative – we want to prove it’s good, flavoursome food, not just the one you choose if you can’t have the others. It’s also really important to reassure these customers that their food is being prepared in a safe way, so we’ll be applying to be Coeliac NZ accredited by the end of the year.”

The business is also making ethical changes to their waste management, with only 5 litres of rubbish each day going to landfill.

“It’s taken a bit of organising, research and the willingness of the staff to sort rubbish as it comes in, but it’s working really well. 90 percent of our takeaway cups, straws, plates are compostable so they go in with the food scraps and are composted at home.”

Overall, Sarah has loved the challenge of taking on the business. “It’s been a learning curve but it’s been very exciting too. I’m fortunate to have worked with the team before I bought the business and a lot of them have stuck with me and really made it a lovely place to be. And to our customers, thank you so much for sticking with us through the changes, I know it’s not easy having a favourite spot morph into something quite different!”

Alyssum café is donating 50 percent of sales from their caramel slice to Bellyful, to help them further provide meals for families with newborn babies and families who are struggling with illness.